Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Roadside memorials

Here we have a bit of a touchy issue in Lake Elsinore, California (and everywhere). The city has put up a memorial cross, and it isn't clear how long it will remain there. Now, you may be wondering what the big deal is. They're just letting a family grieve. And if it was just a simple issue of a family honoring the memory of a recently departed loved one, it would be a non-issue. But lets look a little

Anthony Devaney was the victim that the cross is there to memorialize. He was hit by a car and killed in May of 2012. Yes, 2012... Almost two years ago. The city allowed the posting of the cross, but they finally removed it in December of 2013. It was a temporary memorial after-all. But after it's removal, Anthony's mother was very upset and demanded that the cross be erected where it once was.

So the city's decision was to put it back up and say that it could remain until January 6th. That came and went, and the city extended the date to February. That too passed and Mrs. Devaney's was told that her son's memorial would stay in place until March 19th. Given the city's track record, there's no telling how many extensions she will be granted.

Due to the fact that the city themselves placed the cross the second time, rather than the family, the American Humanist Association is fighting it's placement. Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that the media is going to twist this into a mess. "Atheists refuse to let family grieve their lost son." Yeah... It's going to be a mess. But they are questioning it's display on the grounds of it being a violation of the Establishment Clause. While that may technically be true, there isn't really a need to bring the Constitution into this matter.

You see, most states and municipalities require permits for roadside signs on public land. And these permits only allow the sign to be up for so many days. Some states have even made roadside memorials illegal. This goes for religious and nonreligious memorials alike. The reasoning is that memorials are considered a safety threat to motorists. While some can be rather flimsy, I can see how some of these displays could become a projectile in the case of an accident.

Personally, I have no problem with a family being allowed to put up a cross, star of David, or what have you for a little while to honor the death of a loved one. I wouldn't do it myself. I don't see why you'd want to forever memorialize the place your child died and remember that place, rather than remember their life and put that first. I wouldn't want my place of death marked in that way if I was in those shoes. But, I do understand that people grieve in a number of ways.

The loss of a child is very sad. But after a couple rain storms
and a month or two, this will look like the yard sale that time
forgot... This cute memorial will be transformed into litter.
So yes, it's fine to allow a memorial. But how long do we let it stay there? A few months? A year? Indefinitely? The city seems to be quietly going down the path of the latter, but is that such a good idea? I go by a memorial cross every day. It is a well made permanent display. I'm not sure if it is on public or private property, but it's been there for over five years and still looks new. It is well maintained, but others are not. I also pass a memorial wreath daily. And quite honestly, it looks quite poor. It has seen much weather and wear and is barely recognizable anymore. It now looks like a lot of unmaintained roadside shrines that consists of a crooked cross and a bunch of fake flowers. The only real way to describe these particular memorials is 'trashy'.

Also, if we allow roadside memorials indefinitely, what will the future hold in 25 year? 50? 100? People die in car accidents every day. Can you imagine what our roadways would eventually look like if each one was marked with a cross and then never removed? Roads everywhere would be lined with memorials. Visibility for motorists would be a nightmare. So obviously, I don't think they should be allowed indefinitely.

Should families be allowed to mourn. Of course! Let's just be smart about it and set a time table that allows them to find closure, while also not creating and eyesore and potential hazard.

-Brain Hulk

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